The galette des rois (kings' cake) is a holiday treat prepared throughout the French-speaking world. Associated with the feast of Epiphany on January 6, the cake contains a small figurine (called la fève) representing the baby Jesus. Whoever finds la fève in their slice is crowned king or queen for the day.
Patricia explains the tradition of the galette des rois in her latest video. While doing so, she also happens to use the verb tirer in all three of its major senses:
En début d'année, au mois de janvier, nous tirons les rois.
At the beginning of the year, in the month of January, we draw kings.Play Caption
Non, il ne s'agit pas de tirer les moustaches du roi ou encore tirer des fléchettes sur le roi.
No, it's not about pulling the king's mustache or shooting darts at the king.Play Caption
Le roi et la reine qu'on a donc tirés, c'est-à-dire tirés au sort, choisis au hasard, portent leur couronne pour clôturer cette célébration.
So the king and the queen that were drawn, that is to say drawn at random, chosen at random, wear their crowns to close this celebration.
Captions 19-22, Le saviez-vous? - La tradition de la galette des rois - Part 1Play Caption
"To pull" is the most basic meaning of tirer. You'll often come across it when approaching a door (tirez, "pull"), along with its opposite (poussez, "push"). And in the event of an emergency, you might tirer l'alarme incendie (pull the fire alarm).
Tirer means "to draw" not in the sense of "drawing" a picture (the verb for that is dessiner), but rather "drawing" something toward you or extracting something (such as la fève from a galette des rois). It's also "to draw" as in "to pick" or "select." For example, a French magician might say to you:
Tirez une carte.
Pick a card.
Tirer's more sinister meaning is "to shoot" or "to fire," referring to a weapon. This also has to do with pulling—you pull the trigger to fire a gun and pull the bow to shoot an arrow. Be careful with your prepositions here: we say "to shoot or fire at" in English, but in French it's not tirer à but tirer sur (tirer des fléchettes sur le roi).
Tirer has many, many other meanings. For instance, you can use it to describe skin irritation (which, if you think about it, kind of feels like your skin is being pulled):
J'ai la peau qui tire.
My skin is irritated.
On a totally different note, tirer can also refer to printing something, such as a book, a photo, or a poster. In this case it's synonymous with imprimer:
On a tiré [or imprimé] des affiches pour le concert.
We printed some posters for the concert.
Note that there are two noun forms of tirer: le tirage and le tir. Tir exclusively refers to "shooting" or "firing" a weapon, as in le tir à l'arc (archery). Tirage refers to "drawing" or "printing," as in le tirage au sort (drawing lots) or le tirage d'un livre (the printing of a book).
On se tire! (We're out of here!) Thanks for reading. Tweet us @yabla or send your topic suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Moins is a comparative word meaning "less" or "least" (its opposite, plus, means "more" or "most"). In this lesson, we'll focus on two common expressions with moins, au moins and du moins, both equivalent to "at least." How do we know when to use which?
If you think about it, "at least" has (at least!) three usages. It can specify the minimum amount of something ("I need at least two cups of coffee every day"), it can emphasize a positive aspect of an otherwise negative situation ("The car was totaled, but at least we're all OK"), and it can alter the connotation of a previous statement ("That restaurant is terrible. At least that's what I've heard"). In general, au moins corresponds to the first two usages, and du moins to the third.
We use au moins when referring to a minimum amount. It's often followed by a number:
On fait au moins sept ou huit groupes différents.
We have at least seven or eight different bands.
Caption 5, French Punk - FrustrationPlay Caption
Tu pourras leur parler de ce que tu voudras, pourvu que tu parles au moins deux heures.
You'll be able to talk to them about whatever you like, as long as you speak for at least two hours.Play Caption
Au moins is synonymous with au minimum in this sense:
Pour jouer à la pétanque il faut au minimum deux joueurs.
To play pétanque, you need at the minimum two players.
Caption 5, Lionel - Les nombresPlay Caption
But like "at least," au moins doesn't have to refer to a numerical minimum. It can also refer to the "bare minimum," as in the minimum you can do if you can't or don't want to do something else:
Bien entendu, il faut réapprendre ou tout au moins se remettre au niveau
Of course, it's necessary to relearn or at the very least get up to speed
Caption 24, Lionel - Le club de foot de Nancy - Part 2Play Caption
Au moins is a great expression to use when you're being optimistic or encouraging someone:
C'était pas comme t'imaginais, mais au moins tu essayes
It was not as you imagined, but at least you're trying
Captions 76-77, Watt’s In - Zaz : On Ira Interview ExcluPlay Caption
Just don't confuse it with à moins (que), which means "unless":
Ne plus couper les forêts à moins que ce soit pour faire mes jolis calendriers
No longer cut down the forests unless it's to make my pretty calendars
Captions 3-5, Nouveaux Talents? - Adonis chantePlay Caption
Du moins restricts the meaning of a previous statement. You can use it to modify or clarify what you just said:
Je suis le fou du village. Du moins, c'est ce que les gens disent.
I'm the village idiot. At least that's what people say.
Captions 68-69, Patrice Zana - L'artiste et ses inspirations - Part 2Play Caption
C'est parti pour quatre heures de réflexion. Du moins en théorie.
Time for four hours of recollection. At least in theory.
Captions 4-5, Le Journal - Le bacPlay Caption
Du moins is more or less synonymous with en tout cas (in any event, anyway): en tout cas c'est ce que les gens disent (that's what people say, in any event); en tout cas en théorie (in theory, anyway).
In "Dimanche soir" (Sunday Night), the slam poet Grand Corps Malade declares his love for his wife in beautiful lines such as:
Je l'ai dans la tête comme une mélodie, alors mes envies dansent
I have her in my head like a melody, so my desires dance
Caption 17, Grand Corps Malade - Dimanche soirPlay Caption
If you didn't see the translation, you might have guessed that envie means "envy." And you would have been right!
Vous ne connaissez que l'envie, la hâte, la rage de les tuer.
You knew only envy, haste, the urge to kill them.Play Caption
However, besides désir, envie is also the word for "desire." While un désir is a more general desire, envie connotes yearning, longing, or craving:
Il peut rester une envie intellectuelle.
There can remain a mental craving.Play Caption
If you think about it, this double meaning of envie makes a lot of sense, since envy is bound up with desire: if you envy (envier) someone, you covet what they have.
J'envie les caresses
I envy the caresses
Caption 18, Oldelaf - interprète "Bérénice"Play Caption
Quitte à en crever de son histoire déçue, de son passé tant envié
Despite wanting to die from her disappointing history, her so envied past
Caption 12, Yaaz - La place des angesPlay Caption
But envie isn't always so intense. The extremely common expression avoir envie de doesn't mean "to envy" or "yearn for," but simply "to want," "feel like," or "be in the mood for":
Vous avez pas envie de faire la sieste?
You don't feel like taking a nap?
Caption 29, Actu Vingtième - Le Repas des anciensPlay Caption
J'ai envie d'une limonade.
I'm in the mood for a lemonade.
There's also the expression donner envie (literally, "to give desire"), which means "to make someone want something":
D'avoir des quantités de choses Qui donnent envie d'autres choses
To have things in large quantities That make you want other things
Captions 4-5, Fréro Delavega - Foule SentimentalePlay Caption
In English, we have the phrase "green with envy." But in French, one becomes "green with jealousy": vert(e) de jalousie. You can, however, make someone "pale with envy" (faire pâlir d'envie).
Finally, here's a bizarre quirk of the French language: envie is also the word for "birthmark" and "hangnail." What those have to do with envy and desire is an etymological mystery.
The verb plaire is most often used in the expressions s'il vous plaît (formal) and s'il te plaît (informal), which, as you probably know, both mean "please"––or more accurately, "if it pleases you." "To please" is the basic meaning of plaire:
Ça peut pas leur plaire.
That can't please them.
Caption 18, Le Journal - Yann Arthus BertrandPlay Caption
Another way of saying "to please" is faire plaisir (literally, "to make pleasure"):
Je sais que ça va pas te faire plaisir
I know this isn't going to please youPlay Caption
If something pleases you, that means you like it. Indeed, plaire can also mean "to like" or "enjoy":
Une autre œuvre qui me plaît beaucoup
Another work that I like a lotPlay Caption
OK, je te plais pas.
OK, you don't like me.Play Caption
Ce livre plaît à tout le monde.
Everyone enjoys that book.
We could certainly translate the above examples as "another work that pleases/appeals to me a lot," "OK, I'm not pleasing/appealing to you," and "that book is pleasing/appealing to everyone." But plaire is used a bit more generally than "to please," so you'll usually see it translated as "to like" or "enjoy" with the subject and object inverted (ce livre plaît à tout le monde = everyone enjoys that book). Note that plaire always takes an indirect object (plaire à quelqu'un, "to please/be pleasing to someone").
When plaire is reflexive (se plaire, literally "to please oneself"), it means "to be happy" or "to enjoy being somewhere":
Est-ce que tu t'y plais?
Are you enjoying yourself here?
Caption 24, Yabla à Nancy - Université Nancy 2Play Caption
Elles se plaisent à Lindre
They like Lindre
Caption 21, Lionel - à Lindre-Basse - Part 6Play Caption
Or, in the plural, it can mean "to like one another," "to enjoy each other's company":
Ils se sont plu immédiatement.
They liked each other instantly.
And for life's unpleasant moments, there's the verb déplaire (to dislike, displease, irritate, upset):
Ses plaisanteries déplaisent à ma mère.
My mother doesn't like his jokes. (His jokes irritate my mother.)
There's also the expression n'en déplaise à (with all due respect to, with apologies to, no offense to):
Pas de fiole de cyanure, n'en déplaise à Shakespeare
No vial of cyanide, no offense to Shakespeare
Caption 47, Grand Corps Malade - Roméo kiffe JuliettePlay Caption
We hope you're pleased with this lesson on plaire!
In our latest Le saviez-vous? video, we visit La Maison de l'Olive, a store in Nice specializing in—you guessed it—olives. Like most of the Mediterranean region, the south of France is filled with olive trees, or oliviers:
Toute la cuisine méditerranéenne se fait avec l'huile d'olive. C'est la civilisation de l'olivier.
All Mediterranean cuisine is made with olive oil. It's the olive tree civilization.
Captions 27-28, Le saviez-vous? - La Maison de l'Olive à Nice - Part 1Play Caption
You might be familiar with the word olivier as a proper noun, Olivier, the French equivalent of "Oliver." But its basic meaning is "olive tree." In fact, like olivier, the names of most fruit and nut trees end in -ier in French. So, for example, an apple tree is un pommier (from une pomme), a cherry tree is un cerisier (from une cerise), a pear tree is un poirier (from une poire), and so on:
Je parle surtout du cacaoyer, du bananier
I am talking especially about the cacao tree, the banana treePlay Caption
Ils connaissent le mot café, mais ils ne connaissent [sic] pas ce que c'est que le caféier...
They know the word "coffee," but they don't know what the coffee tree is...
Caption 12, Grand Lille TV - Visite des serres de TourcoingPlay Caption
Of course, there are some exceptions. A few of these tree names end in -yer, not -ier, such as cacaoyer above and noyer (walnut tree, from une noix). And a few just end in -er, namely oranger (orange tree) and pêcher (peach tree). Like most -er words, these trees are always masculine, even if the fruit or nut that grows on them is feminine. So you have un pêcher (a peach tree) but une pêche (a peach); un cerisier (a cherry tree) but une cerise (a cherry).
Incidentally, when someone asks if you know how to faire le poirier, they're not wondering whether you can "make the pear tree," but whether you can do a headstand! The origin of this expression probably has to do with the rough resemblance between a headstand and a pear tree. But why not un pommier or un citronnier (a lemon tree)? Who knows!
A group of fruit or nut trees is a grove (un bosquet) or an orchard (un verger). But the French word for "olive grove" is not un bosquet d'oliviers. It's une oliveraie:
En tout cas, en ce qui concerne les oliveraies qui sont sur les Alpes-Maritimes, elles ont été plantées par les Grecs.
In any case, with regard to the olive groves that are in the Alpes-Maritimes, they were planted by the Greeks.
Captions 32-34, Le saviez-vous? - La Maison de l'Olive à Nice - Part 1Play Caption
Here we have another pattern: the words for fruit/nut groves or orchards generally end in -eraie or -aie. These words are always feminine. For instance:
une pomme - un pommier - une pommeraie
une cerise - un cerisier - une cerisaie
une orange - un oranger - une orangeraie
une châtaigne (a chestnut) - un châtaignier - une châtaigneraie
une amande (an almond) - un amandier - une amandaie
Thanks for reading. Tweet us @yabla or send your topic suggestions to email@example.com.
The word "decline" can mean "decrease," "deteriorate," "move downward," or "politely refuse." Its source, the French verb décliner, can have all of these meanings and more.
Most of these other meanings stem from a more specialized grammatical one. To "decline" a noun, pronoun, or adjective is to list all of its forms according to case, number, and gender. You don't have to worry about doing this in French—it only applies to certain languages, such as Latin and Ancient Greek. But décliner can refer to a similar activity of enumerating, presenting something in various forms, offering a range of something, laying out all its different facets.
Because décliner has such a wide variety of meanings, its translation is highly context-specific. For example, you can use it to talk about a fashion designer "presenting" all the styles of his latest collection on the runway:
Du blanc, du noir, presque exclusivement, tous les codes déclinés inlassablement,
Almost exclusively white and black, all the styles presented tirelessly,
Caption 5, Le Journal - Défilé de mode - Part 2Play Caption
Or you can use it in the sense of "depicting" several aspects of something:
...des travaux de couture d'une jeune femme qui décline un petit peu l'Alsace sur du tissu
...some sewing projects from a young woman who kind of depicts the various faces of Alsace on fabric
Captions 18-19, Alsace 20 - Mangez bien, mangez alsacien!Play Caption
Businesses often use décliner to advertise a product available in various forms. When Lionel visited a madeleine shop in Liverdun, the owner used it to refer to the different flavors she sells:
Nous l'avons déclinée à la mirabelle... -Oui. et à la bergamote.
We've adapted it with mirabelle plum... -Yes. and with bergamot orange.
Captions 32-33, Lionel - La boutique de madeleines de Liverdun - Part 2Play Caption
This restaurant owner in Nice uses décliner in a somewhat particular sense. He's not talking about the different forms of socca he offers, but rather all the times of day people order it:
Ça se décline comme ça, et on peut en manger vraiment à n'importe quelle heure.
It's available like that, and you can really eat it at any time.
Captions 34-35, Le saviez-vous? - La socca, spécialité niçoisePlay Caption
If you see décliner on a form you're filling out, or hear it from an administrative official, you're being asked to provide information about yourself:
Déclinez votre nom et adresse.
State your name and address.
Don't forget that décliner also has all the senses of the English "decline": "decrease," "deteriorate," "move downward," "politely refuse."
We've now "declined" all the meanings of décliner!
In the latest segment of Le Jour où tout a basculé - J'ai piégé mon fan, Alex uses a phrase whose meaning may surprise you:
Mais bon, c'était pour la bonne cause. Tu m'étonnes. Regarde.
But OK, it was for a good cause. You're not kidding. Look.
Captions 7-8, Le Jour où tout a basculé - J'ai piégé mon fan - Part 7Play Caption
The literal translation of tu m'étonnes is "you surprise me," but it's often used as a set phrase meaning "you're not kidding," "no kidding," or "tell me something I don't know." Used in this way, it has the opposite meaning of its literal translation—the person is not surprised by what they just heard. Tu m'étonnes is very similar to the English expression "surprise, surprise," which is also used ironically to convey a lack of surprise.
Sans blague is another phrase meaning "no kidding" or, more literally, "no joke." This one, however, can express surprise:
Je suis né le 3 novembre. -Sans blague! Moi aussi!
I was born on November 3. -No kidding! So was I!
The verb étonner has the same root as the English verb "to stun." It means "to surprise," "astonish," or "amaze":
Sur l'eau, il vit son reflet, totalement étonné
In the water, he saw his reflection, totally surprised
Caption 29, Contes de fées - Le vilain petit canard - Part 2Play Caption
Les héritiers de Jules Verne n'ont pas fini de nous étonner.
Jules Verne's heirs have never ceased to amaze us.
Caption 26, Le Journal - Le record du Tour de Monde!Play Caption
And the English "surprise" comes directly from the French surpris(e):
Je suis un peu surpris.
I'm a little surprised.
Caption 38, Lea & Lionel L - Le parc de Bercy - Part 1Play Caption
Unsurprisingly, the verb surprendre means "to surprise":
Tu vas mener l'attaque pour les surprendre.
You're going to lead the attack to surprise them.Play Caption
But it can also have the related meaning "to catch," "come upon," or "discover":
Louise surprend René et Edna en pleine conversation.
Louise catches René and Edna deep in conversation.Play Caption
Just as there are two words for "to surprise" (étonner and surprendre) and two words for "surprised" (étonné[e] and surpris[e]), there are two words for "surprising":
C'est pas étonnant que beaucoup de peintres soient venus s'installer ici sur Arles.
It's not surprising that many painters came to settle here in Arles.
Caption 12, Arles - Un Petit Tour d'Arles - Part 3Play Caption
C'est un endroit vraiment surprenant en plein cœur de Paris.
It's a really surprising place right in the heart of Paris.
Caption 14, Voyage dans Paris - Les Secrets de BellevillePlay Caption
Can you guess what la surprise and l'étonnement mean? Surprise, surprise!
In early 2018, a group of protesters gathered in front of the headquarters of the SNCF (Société nationale des chemins de fer français [French National Railway Company]) to demand that the company convert its empty buildings into public housing:
Logement! -Pour qui? -Pour tous!
Housing! -For whom? -For everyone!
Captions 19-21, Actus Quartier - Devant la SNCFPlay Caption
Logement is the word for "housing" or "lodging" in general, but it can also refer more specifically to an apartment, house, or home:
J'aurais pas pu avoir mon logement.
I wouldn't have been able to get my apartment.
Caption 58, Actus Quartier - Devant la SNCFPlay Caption
Lorsque j'avais pas mon logement.
When I didn't have my home.
Caption 110, Actus Quartier - Devant la SNCFPlay Caption
The verbal form of logement, loger, means "to house" or "to accommodate." It's synonymous with héberger:
ces beaux immeubles vides pour héberger, pour loger les personnes qui sont à la rue.
these beautiful empty buildings to house, to provide housing for people who are on the street.
Captions 17-18, Actus Quartier - Devant la SNCFPlay Caption
On the flip side, loger can also mean "to be housed," "to stay," or "to live":
Je loge chez mon amie.
I'm staying at my friend's place.
If someone is mal logé, they're living in poor housing conditions:
La honte, la honte à ce pouvoir qui fait la guerre aux mal-logés.
Shame, shame on this authority that's waging war on the poorly housed.
Captions 28-29, Actus Quartier - Devant la SNCFPlay Caption
And if someone is homeless, they're SDF—an acronym for sans domicile fixe (without a fixed abode):
Moi, je suis là parce que je suis SDF. Je suis sans domicile fixe.
Me, I'm here because I'm homeless. I'm without a fixed abode.
Caption 100, Actus Quartier - Devant la SNCFPlay Caption
Another word for "homeless" is sans-abri (without shelter).
Many people lucky enough to have a fixed abode pay un loyer (rent) to un/une propriétaire (a landlord/landlady):
j'ai de quoi payer un... un loyer
I have enough to pay... rent
Caption 120, Actus Quartier - Devant la SNCFPlay Caption
La propriétaire a vendu son appartement.
The landlady sold her apartment.
Caption 103, Actus Quartier - Devant la SNCFPlay Caption
Propriétaire is also the word for "owner." Un propriétaire foncier is a property owner, such as the SNCF:
Faut quand même savoir que la SNCF, c'est le deuxième propriétaire foncier du pays après l'État.
You should know, however, that the SNCF is the second largest property owner in the country after the State.
Captions 43-45, Actus Quartier - Devant la SNCFPlay Caption
You'll find two words for "building" in this video—immeuble and bâtiment:
Vous avez vu dimanche le bel immeuble vide
On Sunday you saw the beautiful empty building
Caption 10, Actus Quartier - Devant la SNCFPlay Caption
Parce qu'ils ont des bâtiments vides, complètement vides
Because they have vacant buildings, completely vacant
Caption 30, Actus Quartier - Devant la SNCFPlay Caption
While both are general terms for "building," un immeuble can also be an "apartment building" or "apartment block," which is what the protesters are hoping the SNCF will provide for those in need.
In this lesson, we're going to discuss a very common word that isn't very specific. It's un truc, an informal word for "thing" (une chose has the same meaning). You can use it when you're not quite sure what an object is called:
J'attends que le truc passe parce que ça fait un petit bruit...
I'm waiting for the thing to pass because it's making a little noise...
Caption 82, Lea - Cour Saint-ÉmilionPlay Caption
Or when you're talking about something abstract:
On n'a plus de souvenirs. C'est ça, le truc aussi.
We don't have any more memories. That's the thing too.
Captions 25-26, Elisa et sa maman - La technologiePlay Caption
When someone says "it's not my thing," they're saying they don't really like it (it's not their cup of tea) or they're not really good at it (it's not their forte). There's an exact cognate of this expression in French—ce n'est pas mon truc:
La baignade, c'est pas mon truc. -Oh, moi non plus!
Swimming isn't my thing. -Oh, me neither!Play Caption
Un truc means "a thing," but it often translates as "something." It's a more informal way of saying quelque chose (something):
Tu sais j'vais te dire un truc. Tu sais c'que c'est qu'une utopie?
You know, I'll tell you something. Do you know what a utopia is?
Caption 70, Actus Quartier - Manif anti-nucléaire à BastillePlay Caption
Manon, à toi de commencer. Dis-moi un petit truc en français.
Manon, your turn to start. Tell me a little something in French.
Caption 3, Manon et Clémentine - VirelanguesPlay Caption
Sometimes, un truc (or des trucs) is just "stuff" in general:
Je sais pas encore mais en tout cas je sais que je veux créer un truc.
I don't know yet, but in any case I know that I want to create stuff.
Caption 58, Watt’s In - Louane : Avenir Interview ExcluPlay Caption
But there is one instance in which truc does have a specific meaning. It's also the word for "trick," as in a magic trick or a clever way of doing something:
Moi, j'ai un truc miraculeux
Me, I have a miraculous trickPlay Caption
You'll find a synonym for truc in the next caption:
Une astuce qui ne coûte rien
A trick that costs nothingPlay Caption
Besides ce n'est pas mon truc, there are two expressions with truc with close English cognates. The first is avoir le truc:
Je n'ai pas le truc pour ça.
I don't have the knack for it.
Tu commences à avoir le truc.
You're getting the hang of it.
The second is chacun son truc (literally, "each his/her thing"), synonymous with chacun ses goûts (there's no accounting for taste; literally, "each his/her tastes"):
J'aime les chats. Tu aimes les chiens. Chacun son truc! / Chacun ses goûts!
I like cats. You like dogs. To each his own!
Vous commencez à avoir le truc pour "truc"! Stay tuned for our next lesson and tweet us @yabla or send your topic suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The word rendez-vous is the second-person plural imperative form of the verb se rendre ("to go" or "to present oneself"). It literally means "go!" or "present yourself!" But rather than a command, you'll hear it most often used as a noun—un rendez-vous. In English, "a rendezvous" is another word for "a meeting." Un rendez-vous means that and much more, as you'll see in this lesson.
If you're a regular Yabla French user, you'll recognize this word from the final caption of nearly every video in our Voyage en France series:
Je vous donne rendez-vous très bientôt pour de nouvelles découvertes.
I will meet you very soon for some new discoveries.
Caption 50, Voyage en France - Mont-ValérienPlay Caption
Donner rendez-vous à (literally, "to give meeting to") is to arrange to meet someone, to set up a date or an appointment with someone. Indeed, besides "a meeting," un rendez-vous can also be "a date" or "an appointment":
C'est au premier rendez-vous qu'ils franchissent le pas
It's on the first date that they take that step
Caption 5, Grand Corps Malade - Roméo kiffe JuliettePlay Caption
J'ai rendez-vous chez le dentiste et je suis en retard!
I have an appointment at the dentist and I'm late!
Caption 10, Micro-Trottoirs - Art ou science?Play Caption
Note the discrepancy between the French and the English in that last example: when talking about having an appointment with someone, you don't have to say j'ai un rendez-vous. J'ai rendez-vous will suffice.
In French, you don't "make" an appointment with someone—you "take" (prendre) one:
Aujourd'hui, on va apprendre à prendre rendez-vous chez le médecin.
Today we're going to learn how to make an appointment at the doctor's.Play Caption
And if something is by appointment only, it's sur rendez-vous ("on appointment"):
au trente-neuf rue Saint-Pavin des Champs sur rendez-vous
at thirty-nine Saint-Pavin des Champs Street by appointmentPlay Caption
Un rendez-vous can refer both to a meeting and a meeting place:
Ce château était un rendez-vous de chasse.
This castle was a rendezvous point for hunting.
Caption 26, Le Mans TV - Mon Village - MalicornePlay Caption
Here's an interesting example that uses rendez-vous in more of a metaphoric sense:
Le soleil est au rendez-vous pour ce nouveau numéro de la découverte de la ville de Provins.
The sun is present for this new episode of the discovery of the city of Provins.
Caption 2, Voyage en France - La ville de ProvinsPlay Caption
The sun is "at the meeting" for this new episode—in other words, the sun is out. Être au rendez-vous means "to be present." The expression is used in the negative in Part 1 of Le Jour où tout a basculé - J'ai piégé mon fan to describe an actress's lack of success in recent years:
Sophie est une comédienne célèbre, mais depuis quelques années le succès n'est plus au rendez-vous.
Sophie is a famous actress, but success has been hard to come by for several years.
Captions 1-2, Le Jour où tout a basculé - J'ai piégé mon fanPlay Caption
Mais depuis deux ans, le succès n'est plus vraiment au rendez-vous.
But for the last two years, success has been somewhat elusive.Play Caption
That about does it for this lesson. Nous vous donnons rendez-vous très bientôt pour une nouvelle leçon (We'll meet you very soon for a new lesson)!
In the latest installment of Le Jour où tout a basculé, we find two very different uses of the verb passer. The first is a direct cognate of the English verb "to pass," referring to time passing:
Quatre mois ont passé.
Four months have passed.Play Caption
The second, referring to taking an exam, is a false cognate. You might assume that passer son bac means "to pass one's baccalaureate exam." But that's wrong! Passer in this context actually means "to take":
J'ai passé mon bac.
I took my baccalaureate.Play Caption
If you want to talk about passing an exam, use the verb réussir (to succeed):
Demain il réussira son examen.
Tomorrow he will pass his exam.Play Caption
Passer's other meanings are more predictable. You can use it transitively (i.e., with an object) to to talk about passing something to someone:
Passe le micro.
Pass the mic.
Caption 54, Arles - Le marché d'ArlesPlay Caption
Or you can use it intransitively (without an object) to describe someone passing by or passing from one place to another:
Tous les ans, effectivement, nous demandons à Saint-Nicolas de passer.
Every year, in fact, we ask Saint Nicholas to pass by.Play Caption
Et maintenant on va passer en cuisine avec le chef.
And now we'll go into the kitchen with the chef.
Caption 33, Parigot - Le bistrotPlay Caption
Just as you can "pass time" (or "spend time") in English, you can passer du temps in French:
Et puis ça permet de passer un bon petit moment ensemble.
And then it allows us to spend a good bit of time together.Play Caption
The expression passer pour means "to pass for," as in "to be taken for" or "seem like":
La maîtrise des synonymes vous permettra donc d'élargir votre vocabulaire, mais aussi, de ne pas passer pour un psychopathe.
Mastering synonyms will therefore allow you to broaden your vocabulary, but also to not be taken for a psychopath.
Captions 23-24, Le saviez-vous? - Les synonymesPlay Caption
As passer is such a versatile verb, it's no surprise that it's used in many, many common expressions. We'll pass along a handful of them to you:
passer à autre chose - to move on to something else
passer à l'acte - to take action
passer à la caisse - to pay/checkout
passer à la télévision - to be on TV
passer à table - to sit down for a meal (also has the figurative meaning "to snitch" or "spill the beans")
passer un coup de fil - to make a phone call
passer de la musique - to put on some music
passer au bloc - to go under the knife/have surgery
passer au peigne fin - to go over with a fine-tooth comb
passer à côté de - to miss/miss out on
laisser passer sa chance - to miss one's chance
You can find even more expressions on this WordReference page.
And to learn about the reflexive form of passer, se passer, check out our lesson Se Passer: To Bypass and Pass By.
You may know that all French nouns are either masculine or feminine, but did you know that some nouns can be both? A word like après-midi (afternoon), for example, can be either masculine or feminine depending on the speaker's preference:
Vous deux, là, qu'est-ce que vous allez faire de beau cet après-midi?
You two, here, what are you going to do that's exciting this afternoon?Play Caption
On passe une super après-midi.
You spend a great afternoon.Play Caption
Un après-midi (masculine) and une après-midi (feminine) both mean "an afternoon." But usually, when a word's gender changes, its meaning changes too. Take the word mode, for example. La mode (feminine) means "fashion," but le mode (masculine) means "mode" or "(grammatical) mood":
Le milieu de la mode est aussi touché hein, forcément.
The world of fashion is also affected, you know, necessarily.Play Caption
Le temps présent fait partie du mode indicatif.
The present tense is part of the indicative mood.
Caption 10, Le saviez-vous? - Le mode indicatif, c'est quoi?Play Caption
Like mode, a lot of dual-gender words end in -e. Another common one is poste. When masculine, it means "post" as in "position" or "job" (among other things), and when feminine, it means "post" as in "post office" or "mail":
J'ai trouvé mon premier poste de libraire
I found my first bookseller position
Caption 3, Gaëlle - Librairie "Livres in Room"Play Caption
Si je venais à gagner, vous m'enverrez mon chèque par la poste.
If I were to win, you'll send me my check in the mail.Play Caption
You'll most often find the word livre in its masculine form, meaning "book." When feminine, it means "pound," as in the unit of weight and currency:
L'extérieur d'un livre s'appelle la couverture.
The outside of a book is called the cover.
Caption 4, Manon et Clémentine - Vocabulaire du livrePlay Caption
Une livre équivaut à environ quatre cent cinquante-quatre grammes.
One pound is equal to around four hundred fifty-four grams.
Voile has related meanings in both its masculine and feminine forms. Both refer to things made of fabric—a veil (un voile) and a sail (une voile):
Un niqab, c'est donc un voile intégral qui ne laisse, euh, voir que les yeux.
So a niqab is a full-length veil that only, uh, shows the eyes.Play Caption
Il a une seule voile.
It has a single sail.
Caption 11, Fred et Miami Catamarans - Les BateauxPlay Caption
This video takes you on a tour (un tour) of Paris, making a requisite stop at the Eiffel Tower (la Tour Eiffel):
La Tour Eiffel, qui est le symbole de la France.
The Eiffel Tower, which is the symbol of France.
Caption 20, Paris Tour - Visite guidée de ParisPlay Caption
Gender can be tricky in French, doubly so when you're dealing with words that can be both masculine and feminine. Remembering them is just a matter of practice. You can find a comprehensive list of dual-gender words on this page.
If you have any worries, concerns, or problems in a French-speaking country, souci is the word to use to express your predicament. In the first two senses ("worry" and "concern"), it's synonymous with inquiétude:
Ne te fais pas de souci. Fais-moi confiance!
Don't worry. Trust me!Play Caption
Alors, le souci, quand elles en font deux, c'est que si elles sont pas très bonnes productrices de lait...
So the concern, when they have two, is that if they are not very good producers of milk...
Caption 4, Ferme de la Croix de Pierre - Les chèvresPlay Caption
Pas d'inquiétude. De nos jours, le pont est protégé d'un grillage.
Not to worry. Nowadays, the bridge is protected by a wire fence.Play Caption
Souci and inquiétude both have verbal forms (se soucier, s'inquiéter) and adjectival forms (soucieux/soucieuse, inquiet/inquiète):
Sans se soucier [or: s'inquiéter] de dévoiler ses sentiments.
Without worrying about revealing her feelings.
Caption 7, Vous avez du talent Paulin - "Elle"Play Caption
Donc si vous êtes un petit peu soucieux [or: inquiet] de votre santé...
So if you're a little bit concerned about your health...
Caption 16, Voyage dans Paris - Cité FloralePlay Caption
Un souci is also "a problem" or "an issue" you might have with something—for instance, if there's something wrong with a bike you've rented:
...si y a aucun souci avec les pédales.
...if there's any problem with the pedals.
Caption 34, Amal - VélibPlay Caption
Et si y a le moindre souci avec un vélo...
And if there's the slightest issue with a bike...
Caption 57, Amal - VélibPlay Caption
But un souci doesn't always involve a sense of frustration or anxiety. It can also mean "a concern," as in something you really care about and pay a lot of attention to.
Le souci du détail est un dogme.
Concern over detail [or: Attention to detail] is a dogma.
Caption 27, Le Journal ChocolatsPlay Caption
Nous avons un grand souci de l'environnement.
We have a great concern for [or: We really care about] the environment.
There are also the expressions par souci de and dans un souci de, both meaning "in the interest of" or "for the sake of":
Si une partie de Lyon a été retenue, c'est d'abord par souci de [or: dans un souci de] cohérence.
If a portion of Lyon has been contained, it is primarily for the sake of coherence.
Caption 11, Le Journal - La grippe aviaire - Part 2Play Caption
Finally, souci is also the word for "marigold." So while the informal expression pas de souci most often means "no worries," it can also mean "no marigolds"!
Did you know that in French, "a person" is always feminine, regardless of their gender? That is, the word personne is always feminine, even when it refers to a male person. Our friend Farmer François refers to himself as une personne (not un personne) when talking to us about his vegetable stand:
Moi, je suis une personne qui est né dans la banlieue.
Me, I'm someone who was born in the suburbs.
Caption 48, Farmer François - Le stand de légumesPlay Caption
And in another video, a woman describes a male friend of hers as la seule personne (not le seul personne):
C'était un Français, bien sûr. C'est la seule personne que je connais à West Berlin.
It was a Frenchman, of course. He's the only person I knew in West Berlin.
Captions 18-19, Le Journal - Le mur de Berlin s'écroulePlay Caption
On the flip side, "an individual" is always masculine:
Ce n'est pas Bérangère qui la regarde mais un individu pour le moins étrange.
It's not Bérangère who is watching her but a rather strange individual.Play Caption
Elle est un individu sain.
She is a healthy individual.
There's an interesting combination of personne and individu in this article about the recent evacuation of Mont-Saint-Michel. The subject of the article is a man who made threats against police at the popular French tourist destination. He's designated as both il (referring to individu) and elle (referring to personne):
Selon Ouest-France, l'individu aurait affirmé vouloir «tuer des policiers». Descendu de la navette, il se serait ensuite volatilisé avant l'arrivée des gendarmes.... Plusieurs témoins ont signalé cette personne alors qu'elle rentrait sur le site touristique, a annoncé la gendarmerie.
According to Ouest-France, the individual expressed a desire to "kill police officers." After getting off the shuttle, he reportedly disappeared before the officers arrived.... Several witnesses identified this person when he returned to the tourist site, the police reported.
Don't forget that personne can also be used as a pronoun in combination with ne, meaning "no one":
Maintenant on dit: "Il n'y a pas un chat", pour parler d'un endroit où il n'y a personne.
Now one says, "There's not one cat" [not a soul] to talk about a place where there isn't anyone.
Caption 13, Manon et Clémentine - Mots et animauxPlay Caption
Personne ne peut vivre là-dedans!
No one could live in there!Play Caption
Stay tuned for Patricia's upcoming video on ne... personne and similar expressions, part of her series on negation.
Thanks to Michael H. for bringing this topic to our attention!
The latest episode of Le Jour où tout a basculé begins with a homeless man asking pedestrians for une petite pièce, which is not "a little piece," but rather "a small coin" or "some small change":
Monsieur, s'il vous plaît, une petite pièce, un petit ticket restaurant.
Sir, please, a small coin, a small restaurant voucher.Play Caption
Vous n'auriez pas une petite pièce?
You wouldn't have some small change?Play Caption
Une pièce is short for une pièce de monnaie, "a piece of change." Monnaie is where we get the English word "money" (l'argent in French), but it actually means "change" or "currency":
Nous allons récupérer de la monnaie.
We're going to retrieve some change.
Caption 50, Lionel - Voyage en train - Part 1Play Caption
Une pièce can also be short for une pièce de théâtre ("a theater piece"), that is, "a play":
En général, on prenait la pièce d'un auteur connu.
We usually picked a play from a well-known author.
Caption 33, Flora - et le théâtrePlay Caption
And its meanings don't stop there. Une pièce is also "a room," which you might think of as a "piece" of a building:
Mais venez avec moi, dans l'autre pièce.
But come with me into the other room.Play Caption
Sometimes, une pièce is just a plain old "piece," whether referring to a piece or part of something else:
Ce puzzle a cinq cents pièces.
This puzzle has five hundred pieces.
J'ai besoin d'une pièce détachée pour mon vélo.
I need a spare part for my bike.
Or referring to an item or object, such as a piece of art or an article of clothing:
Ici, chaque pièce "d'art de la table" est unique.
Here, every piece of "table art" is unique.Play Caption
Alors que c'est un ciré de création en pièce unique, quoi.
Although it's a unique piece, a designer raincoat, you know.
Caption 27, Lyon - La Croix-Rousse - Part 2Play Caption
You might also see pièce used as an adverb, generally when referencing the price of something. In this case it means "each" or, in a more direct translation, "apiece":
Les livres d'occasion coûtent un euro pièce.
The used books cost one euro each [or: apiece].
For even more pieces of information about the word pièce, see this extensive Larousse entry.
While discussing pigeons in Paris with his friend Lea, Lionel brings up an amusing French idiom referencing those ubiquitous city birds:
Alors se faire pigeonner en français, c'est vraiment se faire arnaquer, se faire avoir par une personne qui vous a soutiré de l'argent.
So "se faire pigeonner" [to be taken for a ride] in French is really to get ripped off, to be had by a person who has extracted money from you.
Captions 54-59, Lea & Lionel L - Le parc de Bercy - Part 1Play Caption
Se faire pigeonner literally means "to be taken for a pigeon." In English too, "a pigeon" can refer to someone who's gullible or easily swindled. Pigeons get a bad rap in both languages!
Let's take a look at some more animal expressions and idioms used in Yabla videos. Here's another bird-related one:
Oui. J'avoue être un peu poule mouillée.
Yes. I admit to being a bit of a wet hen [a wimp].Play Caption
Calling someone poule mouillée is equivalent to calling them "chicken." A slightly less pejorative poultry-inspired moniker is un canard:
Qu'ils me disent que je m'affiche, qu'ils me traitent de canard
That they'll say that I am showing off, that they'll call me a duck [a slave to love]
Captions 6-7, Grand Corps Malade - Comme une évidencePlay Caption
Un canard is a person who's so lovestruck they'll do whatever their partner desires. Believe it or not, it's also a slang term for "newspaper." There's even a famous French newspaper called Le Canard enchaîné (The Chained Duck), which Lionel discusses in a few other videos.
Don't confuse canard with cafard, the word for "cockroach." When used metaphorically, cafard means "depression" or "the blues":
Mon cafard me lâche moins souvent qu'autrefois...
My blues don't let me go as much as before...
Caption 8, Debout Sur Le Zinc - Les mots d'amourPlay Caption
The expression avoir le cafard means "to be depressed," or literally, "to have the cockroach." And there's the adjective cafardeux/cafardeuse, which can mean either "depressing" or "depressed." Encountering a cockroach in your home can certainly be depressing, to say the least!
Though dogs are as beloved in France as they are in other countries, the word chien (dog) typically means "bad" or "nasty" when used as an adjective:
Fais demain quand le présent est chien
Make tomorrow when the present is bad
Caption 3, Corneille - Comme un filsPlay Caption
You'll find chien in a couple of idioms involving bad weather, such as un temps de chien (nasty weather) and un coup de chien (a storm):
On va avoir un coup de chien, regarde!
We're going to have a dog's blow [stormy weather], look!Play Caption
You can also say un temps de cochon (pig weather) instead of un temps de chien:
Et aujourd'hui on a pas un temps de cochon par contre.
And today we don't have pig weather [rotten weather] however.
Caption 22, Lionel - La Cathédrale de Toul - Part 2Play Caption
In American English, "pigs" is a slang term for "cops." But the French call them vaches (cows):
Mort aux vaches, mort aux cons!
Death to the cows ["pigs," i.e., cops], death to the jerks!
Caption 5, Patrice Maktav - La RuePlay Caption
Finally, they don't celebrate April Fools' Day in France, but rather "April Fish":
En tout cas j'espère que ce n'est pas un poisson d'avril.
In any event, I hope that it's not an April fish [April fool].
Caption 21, Lionel à Lindre-Basse - Part 5Play Caption
In the latest episode of Le Jour où tout a basculé, Sarah receives some troubling news from her son Nino that could put her job in jeopardy:
Sarah ne se doute pas un instant de la tournure des évènements.
Sarah doesn't suspect for a moment the turn of events.Play Caption
The verb douter looks a lot like the English verb "to doubt," and indeed, the two are exact cognates:
Et puis, je commençais aussi à douter.
And then, I also began to doubt.Play Caption
But se douter, the reflexive form of douter, doesn't mean "to doubt oneself," as you might expect. Instead, it means "to suspect" or "to guess":
Mais il ne se doute pas qu'à sa place va se présenter Edna, la complice de Louise.
But little does he know [he doesn't suspect] that in her place will be Edna, Louise's accomplice.Play Caption
If you're really certain about something, you can use the phrase se douter bien:
Avec un regard comme celui-là, on se doute bien qu'il a dû en voir.
With a look like this, one might well guess that he must have seen a lot.
Caption 1, Le Journal - Le photographe Cartier-BressonPlay Caption
Je me doute bien qu'il sait comment cuisiner.
I'm sure he knows how to cook.
Both douter and se douter can be followed by de or que. (Se) douter de always comes before a noun (as in Sarah ne se doute pas un instant de la tournure des évènements), while (se) douter que always comes before an independent clause (as in je me doute bien qu'il sait comment cuisiner).
But douter and se douter differ in another important way besides their meaning. While se douter que always takes the indicative mood (since it expresses a certainty or near certainty), douter que can take the indicative or the subjunctive depending on context. In general, douter que takes the subjunctive in the affirmative and the indicative in the negative:
Je doute qu'il sache comment cuisiner.
I doubt he knows how to cook.
Je ne doute pas qu'elle sait la meilleure façon d'y arriver.
I don't doubt she knows the best way to get there.
As you may recall, the subjunctive is used to express a wish, uncertainty, or doubt. So if you're saying you don't doubt something, it makes sense that you would use the indicative rather than the subjunctive in that case.
We'll be back with a new lesson soon, sans aucun doute (without a doubt)!
The adjectives sensé(e) and censé(e) are easy to confuse, since they have the same pronunciation and almost the same spelling (in other words, they're homophones). Sensé(e) is related to the English word "sense," and means "sensible," "reasonable," or "sane":
J'étais face à trois personnes que je considérais comme étant parfaitement sensées.
I was facing three people whom I considered to be perfectly sane.
Captions 80-81, Le Jour où tout a basculé - Notre appartement est hanté - Part 5Play Caption
Censé(e) might remind you of the words "census," "censor," or "censure," but it means something quite different. It's the word for "supposed," as in "supposed to do something." Just like "supposed to," it's nearly always preceded by the verb "to be" (être) and followed by an infinitive:
On est censé... faire réparer des objets qui ont quelques problèmes.
We're supposed to... bring items that have some problems for repair.
Caption 2, Actus Quartier - Repair CaféPlay Caption
On était censé n'avoir aucun souci, avoir des centrales complètement fiables.
They were supposed to have no concerns, to have totally reliable power plants.
Caption 25, Manif du Mois - Fukushima plus jamais çaPlay Caption
Alors que la police, elle est censée être là pour nous protéger.
While the police are supposed to be there to protect us.Play Caption
You can always say supposé(e) instead of censé(e), which might be a little easier to remember:
...son fameux pont qui était supposé être un lieu où [on] profitait de beaux panoramas.
...its famous bridge, which was supposed to be a place where you enjoy beautiful panoramas.Play Caption
Or you can use the verb devoir, especially in the past tense:
...bien qu'elle se demanda en quoi cela devait l'aider à se rendre au bal.
...although she wondered in what way that was supposed to help her get to the ball.
Captions 47-48, Contes de fées - Cendrillon - Part 1Play Caption
Whichever version of "supposed to" you use is perfectly sensé!